The lion of St Mark

THE GOSPEL OF MARK

Chapter 13 Overview

We have already read 13,1-2, Jesus leaving the Temple, as the conclusion to his visit there.
We now read about Jesus moving across the valley to the Mount of Olives where he gives a lengthy speech. The teaching of Jesus from 13,5-37 is an insertion into the story of the Gospel; the story could continue from 13,2 to 14,1 without interruption. Yet we will see how the story would not be complete without this speech by Jesus. As we begin, consider the location of this speech in the story: what begins next?

Read through from 13,3 to the end of the chapter and pick up some first impressions. What is being discussed in the different parts of the chapter? What might be the highlight of the chapter? Can you spot the underlying theme, the key word, of this chapter? As usual, translations tend to obscure this, with the exception of the old RSV.
Note the importance of the future tense and imperatives in this chapter. What is their effect?
As we have now read most of this Gospel, can you pick up what is special about these verses? As a clue, look, for example, at chapter 4.

With that in mind, what might be the purpose of this chapter? Other examples would be John 13-17 or Acts 20,17-35. Who might be the real audience of this chapter?

Have a look at my response

Set up: Mk 13,3-4

In verse 3, Jesus moves across the valley to the Mount of Olives. He has been there already in 11,1. The Old Testament passage concerning the Mount of Olives is Zech 14,1-9. What looms across the other side of the valley (today as then)?

What is the significance of the four disciples named in verse 3? See 1,16-20. Note though verse 37.
What are the two questions asked by the disciples in verse 4? From our first read through, can you see where Jesus answers these questions? How do his answers provide a frame for our reading? Try to spot the "brackets" around the various parts of the speech.
Consider the theme of the final verses and then consider the theme of the middle portion. What might be the key verse in answering the disciples' questions?

Then have a look at my response

The Old Testament Background

A good way to prepare for reading this chapter in detail is to explore some of the passages from the Old Testament on which it draws, either as background or as quotations. Especially important for us is the theme of the Day of the Lord which is common in the prophets.

The book of Daniel is the most important background for this chapter. Look at Dn 7,13-14 & 12,1-3. Have a look also at Dn 12,11 and Dn 2,28.
Other passages which we need to consider are: Isaiah 13,Jeremiah 7,4; Zechariah 14,4; Amos 5,18-20.

Our reading

The first part of the speech, 13,5-23, will be the first page of our reading. Within the overall theme of watching, this is Jesus' teaching about what are the signs.

The second and third parts, 13,24-32 and 13,33-37 which consider the "when" question of the disciples, can be read as the second page.

We can now move on to the first part of this speech.